Sounds Visual Radio
Sounds Visual Radio
Episode 165: Mike James Kirkland

Originally from Yazoo City, Mississippi, Mike James Kirkland grew up singing doo wop and gospel. Eventually settling in California, Kirkland and his brother started a record label, Bryan Records, to release the love songs and socially conscious soul music that Kirkland had been writing. The two albums they released — Hang On in There in 1972 and its follow-up, Doin’ It Right, both echoed the style and sentiments of other artists determined to comment on social issues relevant to the African-American community. His signature song, “Hang On in There,” showcased not only Kirkland’s lyrical prowess, but an arrangement that boasted the simmering richness of a cinematic score with core rhythms grounded in urban funk. Bells, harmonizing backing vocals, and velvety strings are seamlessly blended with the scratch of the guitar and the pulsating bass.

The reputation of both albums slowly spread over the ensuing years, finally resulting in reissues in the ’90s by archival label Luv N Haight, including the 2011 two-disc set Don’t Sell Your Soul, which combined both of Kirkland’s MCA albums with rare early tracks from his first band, Mike & the Censations, comprising a kind of collected works. (Bio courtesy

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